LaLuzerne celebrates 104th birthday
By Lee Reinsch
DE PERE – When President Woodrow Wilson signed the first Mother’s Day proclamation on May 14, 1914, Ella Bournoville LaLuzerne’s own mother was five months away from giving birth to her.
America was three years away from joining the Allied Forces in World War I, and former presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft were still alive.
John F. Kennedy hadn’t been born yet, and it would be another five years before women could vote.
Born in in 1914, Ella LaLuzerne celebrated her 104th birthday recently among family and friends at Birch Creek assisted living home, where she’s lived for the past year.
She kept her independence until nearly the age of 103, said her son, Lyle LaLuzerne.
“Her 100th birthday party was bigger, with over 100 people,” Lyle LaLuzerne said. “Practically everyone there was a family member.”
Ella may be a small woman, but she’s got a large family, including 16 grandchildren, 44 great-grandchildren, and 29 great-great grandchildren.
She was born in Brussels, Wisconsin, where her Belgian maternal grandparents, Alex and Josephine DeDecker Flemal, had settled in 1870.
Her parents, John and Sarah Bournoville, owned a tavern for a while, then a barber shop, and later, a commercial fishing operation. In September of 1931, Ella married a farm boy, Wilferd LaLuzerne.
“We met at a dance hall,” she said.
She said she doesn’t recall whether he said anything especially poetic or charming to her upon meeting.
But her son Lyle said he’d heard it told that she didn’t fall head over heels for him at first.
After she got to know Wilferd a little better, he kind of grew on her.
Ella won’t confirm that story.
“After I met him, I kept him,” she said of Wilferd. “He was the only one for me.”
After marrying, she and Wilferd moved to his family’s dairy farm in Duvall, Wisconsin.
“I knew nothing about farming,” she said.
But she helped out on the farm like a natural-born farmer, especially at harvest time.
“I worked with the bundles,” LaLuzerne said, referring to hay bales. “I just asked what needed to be done, and I did it. It was what you did.”
She and Wilferd raised five children on the farm: a daughter, Charmaine, who died in 2015, and four sons, Murlin, Lyle, Glenn, and Lew.
Her inlaws, Mary and Gustavus LaLuzerne, lived with them and helped take care of the five children when they were young.
“She worked full time on the farm,” Lyle said of his mother. “Our grandmother was the babysitter.”
Wilferd died in 1968, and Ella kept the farm until 1972, when she moved to the Green Bay area.
“She’s always been a worker,” said her daughter-in-law, Ruth LaLuzerne, who is married to Lew.
That was one of the first things she noticed about Ella when she met her, when she and Lew were dating.
Ella always kept her hands busy, and to relax, she would crochet for family and friends.
She got pretty adept at making doilies, and she crocheted five entire bedspreads, one for each of her five children.
She also loved cooking and baking.
Ruth said one of her signature dishes was a Belgian stoemp (pronounced stump), consisting of spinach and mashed potatoes mixed together.
Ella also loved making variations of Belgian pies, involving a raised sweet dough and fillings that could include a custardy rice pudding with cinnamon; or apples or prunes drizzled with a mixture of cottage cheese, egg and sugar.
“She would make 25 to 30 pies at a time,” Ruth LaLuzerne said. “And they were delicious.”